The Sixth in a Series of Sermons on 1 Corinthians
Even though Greeks see the cross as foolishness, and Jews stumble at the thought of a crucified Messiah, Paul has made his case that the cross of Jesus Christ is the revelation of the wisdom of God as well as a demonstration of the Holy Spirit’s power. In chapter 3 of 1 Corinthians, Paul now moves on to address the specifics of what is going wrong in the church in Corinth. The Corinthians still rely on human wisdom instead that of wisdom revealed by God in the preaching of the gospel. And this reliance on human wisdom has led to a host of problems in this church, beginning with the formation of various factions. As Paul points out, the sole foundation of church has already been laid through the preaching of the gospel. The question the apostle now puts to the Corinthians is “what kind of church are they building on that foundation?”
We are in the midst of a series on Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church. We have completed the first two chapters of this letter in which Paul has diagnosed the first in a series of problems plaguing the Corinthians–division and schism within the church. Paul now explains why this problem exists in this particular church. As good Greeks, the Corinthians love human wisdom. And while the Corinthian Christians seem to understand the gospel, there is an intellectual struggle going on in this church as these new Christians are slow in learning to think like Christians, while at the same time they are having trouble leaving their pagan ways behind.
Having spelled out that the fact that true wisdom is revealed in the cross, Paul now makes his case that the Corinthians are immature. And so in chapter 3, Paul rebukes the Corinthian church for this lack of maturity. To make his case, Paul uses two vivid metaphors: adults (mature) v. infants, and solid food (meat) v. milk. Paul uses these familiar figures of speech to illustrate the false assumption on the part of the Corinthians that they were making real progress in the Christian life, when the fact of the matter is that they were not any progress at all. The behavior of many in this congregation demonstrates that they are anything but mature. The reality is the Corinthians are behaving like infants. The wisdom of God has not sufficiently informed their thinking, nor their conduct. They may think of themselves as mature, but Paul must point out to them that they are but infants.
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